Seeking to bridge the rural-urban divide, government will set up 300 rural clusters by 2019-20 across the country as the Union Cabinet on Wednesday approved Shyama Prasad Mukherji Rurban Mission with an outlay of Rs 5142.08 crore or Rs 51.42 billion.
The mission aims to spur economic, social and infrastructure development in rural areas.
The Mission, that was announced last year to replace UPA government's PURA (Provision of Urban Amenities in Rural Areas) initiative, aims at improving the quality of life of people there by involving the government this time. The Centre felt that the earlier scheme "failed" because only voluntary organisations were involved.
When asked how different will be this scheme named after the founder of Bhartiya Jana Sangh and RSS founder member Syama Prasad Mookerjee from PURA scheme, Rural Development Minister Chaudhary Birender Singh said the earlier scheme was only limited to the private sector. "PURA was limited to private sector.
There was no government participation in it. That is why it failed. It was planned at 13 places out of which it could not take off in four while the results on the rest nine were also not good.
"A need was felt to initiate the scheme in a new format," Singh said briefing reporters after a Cabinet meeting chaired by Prime Minister Narendra Modi.
Modi government has earlier faced criticism from the Opposition on a number of occasions for renaming the schemes including PURA launched by the UPA in past.
When asked about funding pattern of the scheme, Singh said the expenditure will be met from various existing schemes at Panchayat level and Centre would pitch in to fill in the "critical gap" of up to 30 percent of the scheme expenditure wherever there is a deficit.
Under the scheme, the State Governments would identify the clusters in accordance with the framework for implementation prepared by the Ministry of Rural Development.
The clusters will be geographically contiguous Gram Panchayats with a population of about 25000 to 50000 in plain and coastal areas and a population of 5000 to 15000 in desert, hilly or tribal areas.
There would be a separate approach for selection of clusters in tribal and non-tribal districts. As far as practicable, clusters of village would follow administrative convergence units of Gram Panchayats.
The scheme will function with 14 mandatory components to ensure an optimum level of development of a cluster, which include skill development training linked to economic activities, digital literacy, fully equipped mobile health unit and inter-village road connectivity.
In the Budget for 2014-15, government had announced the scheme proposing to develop rural clusters in the country with the objective of improving the quality of life of people in the cluster, bridging the rural-urban divide and reducing distress migration from rural to urban areas.